The best advice about being lost, is - DON'T! And the best way to keep from getting lost is to stay on the path.
If you suddenly realize that you do not know where you are, then here are some things to do:
- Don't panic. You can't think clearly when you panic, so take a deep breath and relax.
- Pray. You may not know where you are, but God does, so talk to Him.
- Look around - maybe you'll recognize something that can guide you back to civilization (such as a blaze marking on a tree or rock, which indicates where the trail is).
- Listen for the sounds of other campers, traffic, waterfalls, rivers or anything that might help you find your way back. If you cannot see anything that you recognize and shows you how to easily get back or get help, STAY PUT.
- If you have a map and compass, try to locate your position by looking for hills, valleys or streams.
- You can try to relocate the trail, but you do not want to get any further away from your last known location. Mark your location with something - a backpack, hat, or a large rock - but make sure it's something unmistakable. Then venture 10 paces out, and circle your marker, all the while looking about to see if you recognize the trail or a landmark, and always keeping your marker in view. If you do not see anything you recognize, widen the circle by another 10 paces and repeat. Continue circling your marker at ever wider intervals, but stop when continuing would cause you to lose sight of the marker.
- If you cannot identify your location, STAY WHERE YOU ARE. If you are near a trail, stay there. It is a lot easier for someone to find you if you stay put.
- If you have a whistle, blow on it. If you don't have a whistle, yell loudly. Someone in your party might hear you. Repeat this every 15 minutes or so and be sure to listen after each sounding. Three of anything is universally recognized as a call for help, so three whistle blasts, or three shouts.
- Do not climb a tree or steep hillside. It may seem like a good idea, but it is not worth the risk of falling and getting hurt. The chances of you seeing anything helpful are low.
- If it's an hour or less until sunset, prepare to spend a comfortable evening. Make a shelter and light a fire. Things will look better in the morning, and your fire may attract a rescuer. Remember, stay where you are.
To learn more on this topic, review the Hug-A-Tree education program created by the National Association for Search and Rescue.